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CAN'T WE BE FRIENDS?

TONY PYKE/CUFF BILLETT

JAZZ CRUSADE JCCD 3078 2003 16 tracks 70 min

Pagan Love Song, St. Louis Blues, Squeeze Me, Blue Skies, Can't We Be Friends, Weary Blues, Sweet & Lovely, Rip 'Em Up Joe, Bye Bye Baby, Dream A Little Dream Of Me, Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall, I'm In The Mood For Love, Japansy, When I Grow Too Old To Dream, Save Your Sorrows, Baby Face.

This is yet another brilliant British bonus thanks to Jazz Crusade bringing together top British jazz talent on a CD. Magic stuff. Put the CD on and the first track with Tony Pyke weaving on alto and Cuff Billett growling his trumpet lets you know the delights you can expect.

I first saw Tony Pyke when he was with Ken Colyer's Jazz Men. Unlike some of the reedsmen to play with The Guv'nor, Tony's relaxed playing always complimented the rest of the front line instead of trying to dominate it. Tony is one of those underrated musicians who deserve greater recognition than they get. Having only a two man frontline this CD enables you to listen to Tony in a unique way. When he is playing ensemble with Cuff, chop the right hand track so that you can only hear Tony. You will find that he is playing just as interestingly as he does when solo. There are no cheap fill ins with the man, no spiralling, no mindless repetition, just thoughtful and sensitive music. Not that you should leave Cuff out of the equation for long. The man plays a mean horn, even if he does sound better when he has a bit of force behind the sound (listen to the quiet solo on 'Dream A Little Dream Of Me' to see what I mean).

Backing the main men we have Alan Dandy on piano. Alan is a brilliant pianist who puts some 'whumph' into the band. I must say though that his solo break on 'Sweet & Lovely' which is basically a clarinet solo, Alan does at times seem lost and looking for away out. Drummer Johnny Baker lays down a good underscore and an occasional dynamic solo. The bass player Andy Lawrence is very good, I think. Think? Well at times his playing is so discrete that you can hardly hear him. Whilst listening to the CD on a bus, I made the mistake of upping the volume to listen to Andy on a solo break. People looked at me when I yelled out when Cuff came back on line at full strength!

This is the sort of CD you can indeed become friends with. You can play it time and time again, and I do, much to the annoyance of those sharing the house with me ('That's the third time through for that CD, why can't you play one of the hundreds of others you own for a change?') I just ignore them and reach for the repeat button.

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